Thursday, November 13, 2014

The unofficial official diagnosis....from a medical professional

   Nixon had an appointment yesterday with a child psychologist. We set this up to help get answers about his behavior issues in school.

    I found out several things yesterday, one of which being I "read too much". That was told to me by the doctor. She was asking for the issues with Nixon, and why I was seeking a consult for him regarding being on the Autism Spectrum. I started telling her things I'd read, and behaviors Nixon had. She told me "stop researching and tell me what his issues are". Then she observed Nixon.

    Yes, Nixon does have textural issues. Yes, he does have SPD (sensory processing disorder). Yes, he is quick to frustration and acts on impulse when agitated.

    But, he doesn't have any social issues. He grasps empathy, understands 2 part questions asked to him and a few other things.

    The cut and dry of it is: He has ADHD and is not on the spectrum. He has coordination issues and is behaviorally immature, but he is not autistic.

    The way she explained it to me, thankfully with a chart, is: In order to determine someone is autistic, they first have to meet all 3 categories in the social interactions portion. Not just one. They have to have a negative in all 3 of those.
   Nixon had none.
   In addition, they likely will have up to 4 negatives in the behavioral categories.
   Nixon had 2 with a partial in a third category.

   Since we didn't get the questionnaire packet for his teacher prior to the appointment, she can not give us an official diagnosis. She needs the teacher's portion completed before she can do that. We'll have to schedule a follow-up and bring it then. At that appointment we'll discuss tools to help Nixon succeed.

    I don't know what the IEP findings will show. They're still testing him for that at school.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The struggle.....and my breaking point

    Nixon had a rough week last week. Monday was pretty horrific, Tuesday (election day) was no school, Wednesday and Friday weren't awful but far from great and Thursday was he best day of the week (only 10 minutes outside of the classroom).

    One of the biggest things that struck me, when I had to go to school on Monday and calm Nixon down, is there was a new student in the class. Now, Nixon knew her name on Wednesday and offered to help walk her to class, so that's a plus. Normally new people are identified by their shirt/hair/skin color. I adored watching him see the new student was nervous (although I don't think he identified that emotion, I think he was just happy to see a friend he knew), and using her name (!!) asked if he could walk to class with her. Her mother had tears in her eyes when she and I walked to our respective cars. And I'll admit, I did as well.
   Now, even though Nixon seems okay with her, just the fact that there's a new student is enough to send his world into a tailspin. And tailspin he did.
    All I can do is hope today is a better day.

    There's a class field trip next month. It's outside, at a farm and will be held rain or shine. In December!! I struggled and talked to Mac about it, ultimately deciding I'm going to keep him home that day and (hopefully) arrange something for us to do at the state park I worked at this summer. The class is studying trees, so I know the park has them.
   I just remember Nixon on a class field trip last year with his preschool. Even though I was there he still freaked out and had a couple meltdowns. I just feel like sending him on this one, in the cold!!, is setting him up for failure. I can't go on the trip because I have other things I have to do during the day that prevents me going as a chaperon.

    Finally, last night I cried. I cried a hard and ugly cry.
   One of my best friends posed a picture that her husband and son (a year younger than Nixon) drew together. I loved it, it was super cute! But it reminded me that Nixon is still drawing people as big circles with sticks for arms and legs. I'd be ecstatic if Nixon drew a conventional stick person!
   Another friend had posted a video, not too long ago, of her son (2 years younger than Nixon) tying his own shoelaces. Mac and I were crazy excited yesterday because Nixon zipped his own coat! Tying shoelaces?!? That's sci-fi shit to us right now.

    Those two things just broke me. It really made me realize how special Nixon is. I'm adjusting because some things are glaringly clear: Nixon is not where some of his peers are. But we're not giving up, he'll get there when he's ready. But I had a moment of sadness. I'm better today and I'd never break like that in front of Nixon. He's nothing but perfect to me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

....I tricked him into liking school again

 Today is election day, so Nixon had no school. After yesterday's behavior fiasco, I think we both needed a good day together. Today was that day.

    We spent a couple hours at the mall. Our first stop was the restroom....because, pee. Then we wondered around and eventually stopped for food. The service was incredibly slow and apparently 2 servers didn't want our table. I mean, one came to get our drink order, then didn't return with them. Another server came over to get our food order and asked about our drinks...which we'd already ordered. Server A brought over drinks and that was the last we saw her. Server B brought over creamers for my coffee. We waited well over 30 minutes for our food. The entire time, Nixon was great! He quietly played some games on the sheet they gave them, we played some together and he sipped on his milkshake.
   We finally got our food and Nixon was pretty well spent by that point. He ate a little and within 15 minutes of our food arriving, we were done and gone. We took most of the food to go.

    Our next stop was the book store.
    Can I just say I love that my kid enjoys books?! I'm not sure what I'd do without books. And I love that Nixon is catching on to that. (His class has a Pizza Hut reward for reading books. It's 5 books for the month, read to or the kids reading, and they earn a free personal pan pizza. He got the Monday and already we've read 3 books! We're huge book-nerds, all of us!)
   Nixon chose 4 books, one was a puzzle boxed set. He'll earn one book each day for the rest of this week. I love that he wants to earn books.....as rewards!

    On the drive home from the mall, Nixon says he wants to "quit school". Most parents would tell a child that's not allowed.
    I'm not most parents.
    We talked about it. I started by asking him what he didn't like (recess ends, not enough fun stuff, boring work). That wasn't working it was just reminding him of what he didn't like.
    I changed tactics.
    I asked him different questions about what he likes about school. But I disguised it as things he "didn't hate". "Art, computer lab, gym, music" were the top list of things he came up with. I then asked him if he'd miss those things, since he was quitting school and all. He says "Well, maybe I should go back. (new student) is just starting to like class, I can help make her laugh."
    That's my boy!


I'm his mom, not a magician!

    *Sigh*

    Yesterday was another day from hell for Nixon. And unfortunately, I'd told the vice principal she could call me the next time he had a really awful day.
     She took me up on that "offer" yesterday.
     Twice.

    It started as I was home pondering dinner. My phone rang and I, unknowingly, picked up. No, I knowingly picked up, I didn't know what the school wanted.

    Nixon had been having a rough morning. He had been out of the classroom for over 2 hours. He just couldn't get his shit straight. He wasn't throwing/hitting/kicking, he was crying and screaming (he has this god-awful ear bleeding pitch that he can scream at for extended periods of time!).
    The vice principal asked if I could "come by and talk to him, maybe stay with him the rest of the day?". I was able to come by, and I did, but I couldn't and honestly, just plain wouldn't,  spend another extended period of the school day with him.
    Why not?, one might ask. I'm not on the school payroll. I'm not teacher material. And unless they're telling me Nixon isn't welcome to the school anymore and I have to homeschool him, I've chosen to let other people educate him.
     But yesterday I had other things to do and literally could not stay with him.

    I got to the school and found Nixon, with the special education teacher and the aid standing near him, sitting in a chair. I sat cross-legged on the floor and had Nixon come sit with me. He hugged me and started to cry. He claimed he missed BeBe, but I know him well enough to know that "missing" something is an emotion he falls back on,because he can't/doesn't know what he really feels. Nixon can't always recognize his own emotions, so he'll say one that he does know, even if it isn't what he actually feels.
    He sat on my lap, crying into my chest. I held him and spoke softly, gently. *I should add that when Nixon first saw me, he asked if I was staying the rest of the day with him. I said "Nope. Know why? I've done all my years of school and I'm not doing it again". The special education teacher, whom I could see from the corner of my eye, looked shocked at my handling of Nixon!*

    After a few minutes, some deep breathes and a couple more tears, Nixon was ready to go to lunch with his class. I walked him to the cafeteria and talked to the aid.
    Apparently, Nixon started doing the classwork just fine. Then he realized it the same (shit) stuff the class has been doing almost 3 months now. The assignment is to cut the objects out, then paste them under the letter the word begins with. When Nixon realized there were 4 letters, he got upset! He told me "I've done it all", when I was calming him down. It didn't make sense until I talked to the aid.
    He's bored and annoyed that they are still doing the same thing! I get it but he just doesn't have the skills to express himself . He gets annoyed and becomes fueled by his impulses. Those impulses are not the best. He doesn't think ahead about actions and consequences, he's very in the moment.

    I mentioned this to the VP as I was leaving the school. I told her he's bored by the same work. I also said I felt the computer needs to be a reward for a job well done, not a coping mechanism as I feel it was being used. In addition I said I didn't want him segregated from the class, that if he wants to be a part of the class group time, it should be encouraged.
   She agreed and said they are working on a plan that helps him.

   Later I called and asked for the assignment he didn't do (and any other assignments he missed while out of the class for so long) to be sent home. Because that's just common sense to me. If he's acting out and not finishing his work, the work comes home.

   She called me one last time. He was doing his work, but he was doing it in spurts. He'd act up then recover and go back to his work. She asked if I thought talking to me would be a good solution. The only thing I could do was answer honestly: I don't know. And I really don't. Nixon doesn't respond to phones very well. He'll talk to his grandparents on the phone but he's not "present" in those conversations. SO I don't really know if talking to me will help him pull it together.
    She seemed kind of peeved that I couldn't give a magical answer to make him pull it together. I don't have that answer. I don't have a magic wand. I can't even explain how we do things at home because I've built self-coping methods into our way of life for so long I can't even remember how life was before. But what works at home will not work at school. Why? Because school has more distractions/kids/stimulations than we have at home.

    If I had a magic wand that would "fix" Nixon, I'd have used it by now. I'm giving the tips I know when I think they'll help, but not all of them are being implemented and that's not on me.

   Before I go, I'm going to share Nixon's homework last night. In addition to cutting and pasting, he had to write the words of each object.
I'm probably the bane of Nixon's teacher's existence. I help him spell words at home, but I do not write them like the kindergarten kids are supposed to do it. Like my t's. And of course, Nixon is copying my t's! But even funnier than just that, is Nixon's take on this assignment. Wrote the entire word right to left instead of left to right. And I love him for it! He did correct it and complete the entire assignment correctly.  

Monday, November 3, 2014

I survived Halloween in the classroom.....and the teacher did too!

   If you have read my last blog, you might be wondering how Friday went. I'm happy to fill you in, kind and concerned reader.

    Friday was Halloween. Nixon's school may well be one of the last schools in the country, or at least that's the feeling I get when "talking" to friends with kids in other states/part of the country, that really celebrates Halloween in school. The flip side is, for a child like Nixon, who really needs routine and structure to thrive, this is not as awesome a thing as you'd think it might be. There was to be a parade, special snack time, lots of crafts in the classroom and (as if that wasn't enough) it was a 2-hour early dismissal day! It was like the perfect storm for a tantrum.

    I was asked to come join Nixon in the classroom for the day, to maybe help him deal with all this a little easier. Apparently, as his mom, I have a superpower. Or at least the school administrators seem to think I do.

    We arrived and Nixon, right away, was given an assignment: color by words. A bat. Nixon could see it was a bat and wanted to color it, as a bat should be colored. He get upset when his teacher instructed him (then walked away) on what the first work/color was. I helped him with the rest of the words/colors until it was complete. He sat at the teacher's desk  ("your special seat") while working on it. When it was completed he showed it to her, and they read a "this is how I need to behave in class" book together. This is just for Nixon. In theory, it sounds like a good idea. Except that the rest of the class is now playing and Nixon, who had just completed his work, wants to play too. The book was about 6 pages long and when it was done Nixon was able to play. But just as he was getting ready to play, it was time to get ready for reading time.
    *Now, right here, I was doing well. Nixon was trying to introduce me to his friends and also getting ready to enjoy the book. Nixon LOVES, motherfucking LOVES books! Need him to sit down and still for a spell? Read him a book or even hand him a new book.*
    Nixon was sitting in his spot, criss cross applesauce even, waiting patiently.Let me tell you, this momma, was SO proud!

    Then the teacher's aid entered the class and Nixon got up and ran to the computer station. What the what?!?
     The aid turned on the computer and started a Dr Seuss reading game for Nixon to do while the rest of the class did announcement time and got the class assignments (line leader, messenger (Nixon), and caboose). Nixon missed all this because he's not a part of the class at this point. When his time was up, Nixon got pissed. The game is super fun and Nixon wasn't ready for it to be over. He ran away and started screaming!
     The aid was talking to him and he ignored her. SO, I stepped in and did a hold/hug that Franny showed me. He still fought me, but in less than a minute of my calm voice and the hold, he asked to join the class and earn more computer time. The class watched a fun Magic School Bus video and Nixon did too, from the computer chair.

     Pretty soon it was the parade time. Nixon had no trouble getting dressed in his costume and was ready for the parade. He got annoyed when the other kids were still getting ready. SO he got extra computer time to keep him calm. (NOT my idea.....)
     Soon it was time to line up....and wait. Again.
Doesn't he look excited?!? He's pretty annoyed right here. Just wants everyone to move!
     We survived the parade, he loved watching all the other kids walking and telling me what costumes he saw!

     The rest of the day was much the same. Nixon had very little interaction with his teacher at all. The aid, who really is wonderful, rewarded Nixon far too quickly with computer time which resulted in more yelling when it was taken away. I used the hold/calming voice on him once more, just to get him to do 2 crafts.
    They had snack and lunch quickly, then after lunch (which Nixon is apparently removed from before the rest of the class is dismissed to give him some more computer time, if he's earned it) was pretty much a free-for-all. There was free play. I loved seeing Nixon playing with his peers. He's got such an imagination that some of the kids just can't keep up, but the ones that can just had a ball with him!
   He was playing in the "housekeeping" area. It's got a play kitchen and baby dolls. Nixon has, in the past, put a baby doll in the microwave "To make her grow up faster". This upset some of the kids so Nixon was reminded (frequently reminded, by both teacher and classmates) that the baby does not go into the microwave.
    *I don't know, I kind of like his logic of using the microwave to age the baby. I think it's an awesome pretend play!*

     There was a lot of screaming and whining and tattling, from all the kids. Nixon does screaming in the structured part of class, but I saw none during recess or free play.

     I need to say this. Teachers are not appreciated enough! I went home just WIPED OUT! The noise, the number of kids, the level of energy....it zapped me! You teachers who do this on the daily...my hat's off to you!


     My biggest issue is: Nixon didn't really seem to be given a chance to be part of the class. Even during his free play, he had a separate box of toys to choose from. These were learning tools he uses daily but he went to them first. My impression is he's around the class but not a part OF the class. The fact that he isn't even given an opportunity to sit with the class, when he's obviously willing to do so, at the beginning of the day, was bothersome. Even the other kids called his name when the aid walked into the class, because THEY know he's not going to be doing the work with them! How sad is that?!? Perhaps I'm being overly sensitive, but how is he supposed to learn how to work in the classroom with his peers if he's not actually given the chance to be a PART of the class?!
    The aid showed me all the tools they use for Nixon, learning wise. The teacher spoke to me, but not once about Nixon! I emailed her last Wednesday evening, about the hair/scissors situation...I'm still waiting for a reply.
     I spoke to her about a fight Nixon told me about. (He said he saw 3 boys fighting at recess and how he told his teacher about it. They lost 5 minutes.....5 fucking minutes!!....of recess for fighting! But Nixon loses an entire fucking day for pretend play?!?!) She says "Oh yes, they were play fighting and Nixon misread it. We broke them up, because even play fighting is not okay. Their teacher put them all in Time-Out for the remaining time of recess." I asked her how Nixon responded to that. Sh says "Oh, he seemed fine. Even went to the boys during the time out and told them fighting is wrong and they should be friends."
     Then she walked away from me to talk to her grademate teacher.

    Am I wrong for freaking the fuck out over this?!? If there hadn't been over 40 kids around us, I'm pretty sure I'd have lost my shit! How is play fighting different from playing barber?! So Nixon lost an entire day but these boys loss 5-mutherfucking-minutes of recess??


     These are things I will bring up at our next meeting with the admin. In the meantime, I did suggest to the aid, that the Dr Seuss game be a reward he can earn and not a just-because/busy work tool. I was not happy with his behavior when he could no longer play that game. He was also very strict about the caboose staying at the back of the line, even if there were slower kids, and he made it known that the "Caboose stays behind everyone!". *sigh*
Parade selfie!
  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Seriously, he was misunderstood....we think. The situation is really not clear at all.

    So, Nixon has always had issues playing with (and not just around) other kids. He'll start running away and just expect them to chase him because....well it's what he thinks should happen. He doesn't feel the need to seek out his peers approval, which is probably why he is unfazed when his classmates react negatively to his behaviors when he's acting "inappropriate" in the classroom. He doesn't understand that he should be bothered so he isn't bothered.

   This all brings me to today:
Mac and I were out running errands while Nixon was in school. Around 12:20 Mac's phone rang and it was the Vice Principal to "share with you Nixon's behaviors today", which is code for "Your kid's been an asshole and we need to tell you about it" in Mac and I's eyes because that's the feeling we end up with at the end of these phone calls from school.

    Apparently, Nixon was playing in the classroom with scissors. He was telling a classmate he was going to be the barber and cut hair. He had scissors in his hand as he said this, but from what we've been told, did not actually cut anything.
    To Mac and I, this was Nixon's pretend play.
    To the school, Nixon was a threat to other children and was removed from the classroom. For the day. Only to see his classmates at lunch.
    We asked if he was going to rejoin his class at some point during the day, and we were told "Not likely. We need Nixon to understand that this is not appropriate behavior and being away from his class for the day is, hopefully, going to make that point very clear." I get that. I know the other kids didn't realize Nixon was playing pretend, and we don't even know that he was, but the impression we were given was he was smiling and laughing when saying he was the barber.

    When we picked him up from school, I approached the teacher's aide and asked her about the situation. Unfortunately, this happened before she was back in the school from directing traffic. Which means this happened before the school day even officially started!

    I've sent his teacher an email about the incident, hoping to get a little more info about the entire situation. It just seems to us that, if he didn't actually hurt anyone, then keeping him outside of the class for the entire day is excessive. Nixon came home very sad and subdued.
I wanted to cheer him up after school Silly faces in the back seat seemed the ticket!


   In other news, I think we were getting a phone call today regardless of Nixon's behavior. There's some concern, among the administrators, about Nixon's reaction to Friday's Halloween events. So much so, we were asked for ways to "ease Nixon's anxiety or stress" so everyone can enjoy the day. Translation?: We're expecting him to ruin it by getting to overstimulated and you must have an answer to this, right?
    We didn't. The only suggestion I'd come up with was giving Nixon permission to call us if he felt overwhelmed. Friday's going to be a low-structure day. Lots of activities very little academics and a parade.
    The Vice Principal called tonight and asked if one of us (Mac or myself) would be available *side note I can never spell that word correctly!, like never!!* to come to the school and walk with Nixon during the parade. It eventually turned into "How long would Mrs. Ball be able to stay?", which eventually became: I'll be with Nixon for the entire (short day, they have 2-hour early dismissal) school day. I'll sign in and be with him for the day. The administration seems to think this will be a big help. I'm not so certain. This is going to go one of two ways: really, really good or really, really, really bad.  

Monday, October 20, 2014

Facing life and laughing along the way

   "Screw it"
Nixon has learned to use this phrase in perfect context. Last week, one day on the drive home from school we were sitting at a red light. On the opposite side of the street from us, Nixon saw a motorcycle turning around. Or so he thought. It was really a motorcycle leaving the gas station and making a left turn out of said gas station.
Nixon says, from the back seat, "Look, Mom. That guy said screw it. Is that okay for me to say?" I tell him he can say it but only in the car or the house around Mac or I.

   "The B-word"
Mac and I were having a totally random conversation about something-or-another, and Nixon pipes in with "She's a B-word". Just that, not the whole word, just "B-word". Again, in perfect context and seamless conversation flow! I'm awed by his delivery of these things lately.

  "Do I have to cut them all out or can I just paste this page under the M?"
This happened at school.
Last week, Nixon had a class assignment that required him to cut all the words that started with Ah sounds then paste under the letter "A" and words that start with M sounds then paste under the letter "M". Nixon noticed that the Ah sounds were on the top of the page and M sounds on the bottom. He raised his hand and asked if he had to cut all the M sounds out or if he could just paste the bottom of the page under the M.
I don't know what his teacher said. The teacher's aide that works with Nixon said none of the other kids in his class really understood what he saw or the question he was asking. Nixon loves mazes and puzzles and I think he just looked at this like a puzzle and solved it for the easiest point of completion.

   
    We have a meeting Wednesday, this week, to begin the IEP and screening process. Hopefully this is the beginning to getting answers on what is "wrong" with Nixon. I put it in quotes because, of course, I don't think there's anything truly wrong with Nixon. We're all searching for answers or labels to get the help we know he needs.